Metal Type: Home | Library | Forum | Free Ads | Store

Matrix case formats and addressing systems - how common were they?

Started by Keri Szafir, January 26, 2016, 01:50:37 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Printle: A Printing Word Game from Metal Type

Keri Szafir

As we know, with composition casters we have three diecase sizes: 15x15 (oldest), 15x17 (NI, NL, since 1920s) and 16x17 (NI, NL and an additional row).
Monophoto developments were even larger, but I've never seen the machine, let alone worked on one... although I saw a "matrix case" or two.

While the 17x15 is fairly common and straightforward - when N is activated, I or L signals activate the NI or NL pins which have priority over I and L - the 16 row systems are more complicated...
We have HMN, KMN and unit-shift (introduced in 1960s). I don't exactly remember how HMN or KMN work, but John posted some info about it, so I know where to look.
The unit-shift uses special front matrix jaws with two positions for the diecase draw rod. If activated, an additional air pin drives the the rod into the upper position which is moved .2" to the left of the lower one, allowing to move the diecase one row further, while keeping the normal wedge in the same position. When unit shift attachement is on (a little valve on the left side, over the cam levers and under the paper tower controls that), the unit-shift air pin is activated by the signal "D", and the D column is addressed by combined "E" and "F" signals.
Why didn't Monotype engineers use E+F to activate unit-shift instead, keeping D signal for addressing the D column? I don't know.

But how common were these systems?
In my atelier at the Book Art Museum, we have a 1965 or so (S/N 28539) composition caster with unit-shift, as well as two 15x17 type&rule casters, possibly dating back to 1930/40s (S/N 24042 and 24662)...
But John Cornelisse has two composition casters, and they both have unit-shift attachment as well as HMN (or was it KMN?); I don't know the serial numbers. It seems pretty uncommon and overtly complicated to me. But I've seen it on two machines in one place, and since John got the casters secondhand from different sources, it's not very likely that they belonged to the single Monotype Corporation's customer.
Why did Monotype implement both systems on a single machine, and how common was it? Did they want to facilitate the transfer from earlier HMN/KMN to more modern unit-shift?
How large was the demand on 16x17 diecases? Actually, all populated diecases in our museum are 16x17, with roman, bold and italic alphabets with Polish accents (ąćęłńóśżźĄĆĘŁŃÓŚŻŹ which is 18 additional characters, compared with the British alphabets). Three styles would make 54 more characters... and the diecases turned out incomplete, there's a few characters missing, we'll have to buy them.
So, in my case, 16th row makes life a bit easier... Otherwise I'd have to cast a lot of additional characters and put them all in by hand.

What are your experiences, what machines/systems have you encountered?
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." --Arthur C. Clarke
"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever." --John Keats
Founder and owner of Keritech Electronics

John Cornelisse

Monotype made a lot of different MCA's or layouts for diecases. Whenever a printery decided to start with monotype, they had to buy a lot of equipment...

    - the matrices in diecases
    - moulds
    - wedges
    - the keybanks for the keyboards

This all came to the Monotype customer just "made for them specially"

Monotype however had a lot of freedom in this.

Although the matrices needed to be sorted in rows, according to the unit-widths of the wedge used... Every other permutation of the matrices would yield another possible layout for a MCA...

And of course the same font could easily cast with a different wedge too. The keybanks they needed to be different too. But this was no problem for Monotype.

Unit-shift and unit-adding all those systems made even more possibilities to vary the layouts of the diecases.

Monotype used all of this. In the years gone by, I collected quite some different MCA-layouts, but they were all different. In some early American manuals I found some standard layouts. But those I never encountered at all.

If your neighbour had Monotype too, you surely had a different diecase layout for all your fonts, and this was even true for the diecases with Times New Roman...

Only Monotype inc. London knew which layout any printshop had...


But, actually the basic systems of the Monotype machine are very flexable, bacause only with:

   - the 0075- and the 0005-wedges for the variable spaces in the lines
   - and using high spaces for overhanging characters,

it is possible to cast any font with the wedges you might have available....

On a keyboard this might have been impossible, but casting with an computer, the program can add extra code whenever needed:

At the start of the line cast, the code for the variable spaces is known, every other character cast with corrrections, is preceded by two extra codes:

     0005-x : which will stop the pump and change the position of the 0005-wedge
     0075-y : this will activate the pump again, and change the position of the 0075-wedge

After this the character can be cast at the desired width, because the S-code is activated

When a 0005-code is found by the casting-program the next code with 0075 is read first, only when there is any change, the two codes are used.

When there is no change, these two commands can be omitted.

Variable spaces are coded GS1 or GS2. When this is found, the program knows the actual position of the adjustment wedges, AND remembers the positions needed to cast the variable spaces in the line.

When needed the program will add two codes extra, to lay the 0075- and 0005-wedges back, otherwise the length of the line will be faulty at the end.

High spaces can be cast using a blank mat at O1, If needed one or more high spaces will do the job. These spaces are cast after the overhanging character...


MNH and MNK, these systems used a wedge with 16 positions. But those wedges are hard to be found....

Quick Reply

Please leave this box empty:
Type the letters shown in the picture
Listen to the letters / Request another image

Type the letters shown in the picture:

Shortcuts: ALT+S post or ALT+P preview

Printers' Tales - Over 30 stories from the pre-digital age. Buy now on Amazon/Apple Books

☛ Don't miss our illustrated newsletters. Click here to see examples and subscribe. ☚